Quote for Thought: Who are we?


What I saw wasn’t a ghost. It was simply – myself. I can never forget how terrified I was that night, and whenever I remember it, this thought always springs to my mind: that the most frightening thing in the world is our own self.

Haruki Murakami, “The Mirror”

(This month’s topic seems to be horror. And I’ve decided to embrace it.)

Do we really fear ourselves? Why would we? Well, people question themselves all the time. Sometimes, we are quick to say: I’d never do that. But then, can we really be sure?

I discussed this with a friend once, and we concluded that you can never be entirely sure of what you are and aren’t capable of. Your personality is created through the process of socialization, upbringing, adapting to the environment. If you were born elsewhere, would you be someone completely different? Probably. Even with the same genes, you would have different life experiences which would shape your identity in another way. Who are we then? It’s hard to say.

But let’s not go that far. Let’s stay in our own skin. Can you say for certain how you would react in an unthinkable situation, how you would react to complete shock? For example, people are said to do almost impossible things when their life is in danger. They suddenly possess survival skills they didn’t even know they had. If starving, they are capable of eating things they would find disgusting, of running faster then ever, and all different thing from The Saw (maybe not the best example, but bare with me). They are also capable of unthinkable cruelty – killing, torture, and then there are the cases when they ate each other (The Raft of the Medusa); but they can also show extreme bravery and risk their own lives to save others. What you are capable of doing can be altered by the circumstances you’re in, and those circumstances cannot always be predicted. This makes us wonder – would I show my best or my worst?

We also fear the possibility that we might lose our humanity. Dehumanisation seems to be a frequent topic in literature and films as most monsters are actually dehumanised people. We often call the people who did awful crimes “monsters”, but the fact is they are still people. What make people do evil? This question may never be answered.

Théodore Géricault: “The Raft of Medusa” (“Le Radeau de la Méduse”) – picture taken from Wikipedia

My Top 7 Books

Since my blog is mostly book and literature-related, I thought it would be fitting to make a short list of all-time-favourites. I won’t go into much detail, I’ll just explain shorty why I like them, but you’re welcome to ask me anything you want. Why top 7? Well, I didn’t want a huge list, but top 5 just wasn’t enough so 7 it is! XD

These are not in any particular order, I feel it would be almost impossible to rate them like that. So, here we go:

1. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

The series that made me fall in love with books once again, and is probably the reason that I’m such a bookworm today. My love for this series cannot be put to words. 🙂

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

When someone asks me what my favourite book is, I usually say Frankenstein. This book is amazing on so many levels… Looking at the world through the creature’s eyes makes you think about human nature and humanity in general, about all the evils we do and the injustice many have to face. The book incorporates so many different elements – from Gothic to SciFi, questions related to science and philosophy. The ultimate question – who is the real monster: the creature of Frankenstein – is up to you to answer.

3. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

The book is set in the Middle Ages, and that always attracts me. It’s devastatingly sad and dark, but the style is the complete opposite. Hugo is sarcastic, even funny, while all the characters’ stories are heartbreaking. And it works so well… I just love everything about this book.

4. The Seven Churches: A Gothic Novel of Prague by Miloš Urban

This book’s subtitle is a good introduction to what you can expect. A bit of history and architecture of Prague, a bit of spookiness and gore, and also a murder mystery. And and amazing ending! The book is incredibly atmospheric, I dare to say kafkaesque (and I love Kafka!) and medievalist (yes, the Middle Ages again). There’s just so much to say about it and that’s what makes it so great.

5. The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I just love Zafon’s writing, and I had to mention him in this post. I chose The Angel’s Game because it’s my favourite, but I would recommend The Shadow of the Wind and Marina as well. The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven are actually a series, but the last one was a bit of a disappointment. However, the other two were so good that I decided to overlook that.

6. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

You might have noticed that I like a bit weird books. So, of course, I adore Murakami. 1Q84 made me fall in love with him, but you won’t be sorry for trying Murakami in general. His books make me feel like I’m on some other planet, and they draw me so much into their strangeness that I start to expect strange things to happen in real life, too.

7. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

And in the end, something completely different. Nothing strange, nothing weird, but still so engaging and wonderful. Honestly, I didn’t expect much of this book, but it surprised me. Another wonderful perspective on humanity, human feelings and weaknesses. And Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated is great, too.

And here the list ends. I’ll probably remember a book I loved but didn’t mention here but what can you do…